I practice a lot of self-care and self-love, but even still, there are days that I don't 'love' my body. For as long as I can ever remember, I've been insecure with how my stomach looks. Even at my lowest weight, I've never had a truly 'flat stomach' much less abs you could see. As someone who works in health and fitness, works out regularly and eats a fairly healthy diet, I would be lying to you if I told you that it didn't bother me and make me uncomfortable or ashamed at times.
As I reflect on the last year, I'm the most fit I've been in my life, but I'm also at my heaviest weight (not counting the weight gained during both pregnancies). It's a difficult pill to swallow (the weight gain part) but I'm learning to accept and be okay with it because I am worth more than a number on a scale. Without a doubt, I've gained muscle because I feel stronger than ever but I can't help but be a little bummed with the added pounds I've put on over the last year.
This post today is just as much for me as it is you. I've been struggling with the number on the scale and the extra flab around my belly. I'm wondering if others notice or is it mostly my own insecurities and me being hyper-critical of myself. How much of the gain is muscle mass (it does weigh more than fat!) versus body fat? Taking some time to reflect on this, share my insecurities and recognize how I'm feeling is helpful for me move forward in a more positive way.
I also feel compelled to share because I don't think I'm alone. If you're reading this, there is probably an area of your body that you're less than confident or unhappy with and would like to change; a part that you wish looked different, was less squishy, more toned, less wrinkly, the list goes on. Perhaps you're having a hard time losing weight and struggling to stay motivated when the number on the scale doesn't budge. Girl, I get it, 100%. The scale is public enemy number one, but more on that later. For me, I would love to get rid of my lower stomach 'pooch'. Also, I really hate that word 'pooch', but it is what it is.
We have the right to feel comfortable in our own skin. We are strong and powerful. Which leads to me this: We should own, love and appreciate our bodies, flaws and all.
I've given birth to two amazing little red-headed boys. No doubt they changed the structure of my body. Despite losing all the baby weight, jeans that I wore pre-pregnancy have never quite fit the same if they even fit again at all. My body is different. My hips have changed. I have extra belly flab, but those boys made me a mom and for that I'd give anything. When I think of it that way, I shouldn't be so hard on myself for not having six-pack abs. I also have some cellulite on my upper legs. But those legs helped get me to the finish line of six half marathons. And when I'm not running, those legs propel me to move at the gym six days a week and for that I'm grateful. I challenge you to think of those areas of your body that you wish to be different then counter that thought with something positive that those areas have provided to you.
But, if I'm to be completely honest, even with a positive mindset, I still don't love looking in the mirror seeing the squishiness of my stomach in return. I don't enjoy stepping on the scale to see the number go up instead of down. I fall victim to negative self-talk when it comes to my body. However, being upset about it, self-sabotaging and wishing it to change won't change anything. Hoping for abs will not give me abs. Getting upset because my stomach feels fat won't make it any less fat. Allowing the scale to dictate my mood for the remainder of the day isn't benefiting me at all.
So, here is what I'm going to do....
I am going to continue to show up for myself day after day. You'll find me working out five to six days a week, striving to eat a mostly clean diet using My Fitness Pal to help with tracking. I'm a sucker for sweets (you know I love my donuts) so I'm going to eat clean while allowing room for the occasional indulgence or sweet treat. I'm restricting (not entirely eliminating) dairy and gluten from my diet because I know when I over-consume those foods, I'm more likely to overeat. I'm going to continue to make micro changes towards losing excess body fat at the gym and in the kitchen.
I am going to be less fixated on the scale. The scale is often misleading and a single number is not always indicative of your overall health. In this health and fitness journey of mine, I am trying to gain muscle. And, like I said, muscle weighs more than fat so inevitably the number on the scale may not go down, and in fact, it might go up. I need to be okay with this. During the Whole30, you eliminate the scale entirely. Each time I did the program, I actually embraced and loved that. During those 30 days I was way less 'worried' about the scale because it was eliminated from the equation.
I am going to visit my friends at 5 Star Nutrition (not endorsed or sponsored) and take advantage of their InBody scale. This scale analyzes total body composition taking into account fat, muscle and water levels in the body. Because I'm trying to gain muscle and lose fat, I'll be able to track those metrics to see how my body is changing. In fact I just visited them for the second time and was ecstatic to see my skeletal muscle mass go up by 1lb while my body fat percentage when down an entire point. Also my weight was up 1lb but considering the other metrics went the direction I am working towards, that extra pound is irrelevant. The InBody scale helps be less focused on totaly body weight because it is so much more than that. I'll also be stepping on that scale just once every couple of weeks to check progress and try, hard as it may be, to avoid the scale at home.
I am going to continue to work on areas of my body I dislike but I'm also going to focus on areas that I do actually love. For example, I love my long legs, shoulders and back. My shoulders are consistently getting stronger. I can lift heavier than ever before. What's fitting is shoulders and back are two of my favorite muscle groups to strengthen at the gym. Perhaps giving a little extra love to my core/midsection through more abdominal and stability work might just change my opinion of that area of my body too.
I am going to give myself grace. Changing your body, losing weight, or adding muscle does not happen overnight. It's an ultra marathon not a sprint. It's not as if I woke up one day and gained ten pounds, it took over a year. It took me years to be able to lift 20lb dumbbells in my shoulder press. Muscle gain is also a process. Patience is key. Stepping on the scale day after day is deflating when you are patiently working hard to change your body. Avoid the daily scale trap, keep showing up, doing the work and change will happen. Love your body even when it seems difficult to do so. Your body has done amazing things, remember and acknowledge that.
This was not an easy post to write so if you've made it to the end, thank you for listening. You might not realize it, but your support means the world to me. As Brene Brown said in her Netflix special, vulnerability is not weakness. Recognizing these vulnerabilities in myself make me stronger. My kids and family make me stronger. You, my friend, make me stronger.
If you resonated with anything here and need a friend to talk with, I'm here for you. Don't hesitate to reach out. I want you to feel empowered to identify your strengths, to face your insecurities and work day after day to become strong, confident and love your own body.